Today I woke up to a disgrace. Florian had eaten all the bread that was left at home without batting an eye. See, you have to know that I can be a tad dramatic if I just woke up and haven’t been fed yet. After pulling myself together, I had an idea: BAKING MY VERY FIRST BREAD. And not only was this going to be the first time that I baked bread, but I wanted to bake spelt bread. My very favorite! (ok, ok, French baguette comes first, but this is my fave healthy work-days bread). My main motto about healthy living is that whatever I consume should be produced locally, and as naturally as possible. Of course, this is not always compatible with the lifestyle of a working busy woman of the 21st century, so I end up eating lots of undesirable items at times, but I try. So, what’s more local than my own kitchen?
So I gathered all the ingredients I had at home, and searched for a recipe to start with.
I decided to go for a very basic bread recipe, and tweak it (yes, I like living on the edge!), so I printed this one, from Jamie Oliver’s website. I just trust the man (but perhaps not so much after seeing the “paella twist” he posted about a couple of weeks ago on his Facebook site -thanks but no thanks).
LONG STORY SHORT
The ingredients are simple: flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and water (see original recipe for proportions, and alter them to your liking). I made two middle-sized breads with 500gr. flour. The preparation is simple as well: mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar, make a well in the center of your bowl and then pour half of the water in, start bringing in the flour towards the well, and start working the dough with a fork. Then, when it’s all a sticky paste, add the rest of the water and continue working and bringing in more flour, until it is consistent. Then it’s kneading time, and after that you need to leave it raise for 30 min, spank it, and leave it for another hour (always covered in transparent film). Then you’re ready to bake! (about 25 minutes at 180 degrees).
The first problem I encountered was how to incorporate the yeast to the preparation. As a non-baker (I just don’t like sweets that much) my experience with baking neared 0. It appears that you can do (at least) two things, either diluting the yeast in water, with the salt and sugar, and then add it to the flour; or mix the yeast with the flour, and gently pour the lukewarm water. Two tips here: read the instructions on the sachet, this step will be specified. Follow these instructions over the recipe’s instructions.The yeast I used explicitly said “do not mix directly with water”. Tip 2: check out what type of yeast you bought!
Instant Yeast: Instant yeast requires no blooming and activates more quickly than active dry.
Next came another dilemma. Where to work my dough: bowl or surface? If you are very cool like Mr. Jamie, whom I worship, you will work on a surface, creating a well amidst the flour, and gently pouring water in without breaking the walls, and starting to work the flour slowly into the well till you end up with a sticky paste. Now, if you are a non-professional clumsy being, a bowl may be a safer option. So, what did I choose? Initially, of course, surface! Luckily, some common sense hit me and I used a bowl. Here you can see some pictures of how my dough starting getting its shape!
The main problem I had was with the water/flour mix proportion. Some recipes, but not all, remind you that the proportion of water to flour may vary for different types of flour. Or, who knows, maybe this is an unwritten rule that everybody (except me) knows but nobody talks about. So I ended up adding up a lot of extra flour to turn my porridge into a stable and consistent dough ball. This is preferable to alternative b, which is what I did on my next bread recipe and that I do not recommend, which was simply adding half the water. I now see more clearly how the bread process should go. So, just follow the recipe, and, really, add the flour bit by bit. Then you are ready to knead your dough on a (floured) surface!
If you want to add seeds, like I did, do it from the beginning. I missed the right moment, and tried to add them when the dough was ready. So, my bread had some seeds on the surface but barely any on the inside! It was nonetheless still tasty!
The key point is to let your dough raise before you bake it. You do this twice. First for 30 minutes. Then you spank it to get the air out, and leave it for another 45 minutes to an hour. So I put the dough back into the bowl, and covered it with transparent film. Then, you bake it for about 25 minutes on the oven (pre-heated to 180 degrees celsius) and tadaaaa!